Every MLB Team's Best Power-Pitching Minor League Prospect, Part 2
On Wednesday, we looked at the best power-pitching prospects for the first 15 MLB teams listed alphabetically, from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Today, we will take a look at the prospects for the remaining teams.
Each team looks for that special pitcher who can blow away hitters with a dazzling fastball with both speed and movement, and while the results at times can be exasperating, either because the prospect fails to achieve consistent results or because of injuries, teams often find that one diamond in the rough that can bring the cheese yields very satisfying results.
Here is our look at the best power-pitching minor league prospects for the remaining 15 MLB teams.
See Part 1 of 2012 power-pitching prospects HERE.
Milwaukee Brewers: Taylor Jungmann
The Milwaukee Brewers believe that 2011 first-round draft pick Taylor Jungmann was worth every penny they paid for him, and that was a sizable chunk ($2.52 million).
Jungmann features a four-seam fastball that hits 98 MPH, a two-seam fastball that hits 97, and a cutter that regularly registers at 92-93 MPH. Jungmann will likely start next season at rookie league ball, but with his poise, command of the strike zone and electric stuff, Jungmann likely won’t be there for very long.
Minnesota Twins: Matthew Summers
It’s a very small sample size, but from what the Minnesota Twins have seen thus far from right-handed pitching prospect Matthew Summers, they have to be pleased.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of UC Irvine, Summers impressed in his short stint with Elizabethton in the Appalachian League. In 20 appearances, all out of the bullpen, Summers registered a 0.87 ERA, striking out 36 batters and walking just five in 20.1 innings.
Summers, a converted third baseman, features a fastball that regularly touches 96-97 MPH, and left-handed hitters in the Appy League combined to hit .000 against him.
New York Mets: Zach Wheeler
The New York Mets knew exactly who they wanted when they entered into trade negotiations with the San Francisco Giants, and in giving up outfielder Carlos Beltran, the Mets got their man: 21-year-old right-handed pitching prospect Zach Wheeler.
Wheeler certainly impressed after the trade, registering a 2.00 ERA in six starts with Advanced Single-A Port St. Lucie, striking out 31 batters in 27 innings and showing great command by issuing just five walks.
Wheeler regularly touches 95-96 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball and will occasionally touch 98. While the 2012 season might seem like a stretch for Wheeler to be seen at Citi Field, Mets fans should expect to see Wheeler by the following season.
New York Yankees: Manny Banuelos
Part of the Killer Bees, 20-year-old Manny Banuelos was referred to by future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera as the greatest young prospect he has ever seen back in spring training.
With a blazing mid-to-high 90s fastball, a better than average changeup, and a developing curveball, Banuelos figures to combine with Dellin Botances as a formidable young combo in the starting rotation for the New York Yankees, possibly as soon as late 2012 or early 2013.
That is, unless GM Brian Cashman uses him as trade bait first.
Oakland Athletics: Sonny Gray
Before the Oakland Athletics selected Vanderbilt right-hander Sonny Gray with the 18th overall pick in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft, there seemed to be some confusion as to exactly what role Gray would play in the majors, with some thinking Gray’s stuff was better suited for the bullpen.
However, after starting five games for Midland in the Double-A Texas League, Gray’s performance may have put those discussions to rest. Gray posted a 0.45 ERA with a 1.050 WHIP in 20 innings and showed off his 93-95 MPH that at times touched 97 along with a solid array of secondary pitches.
Philadelphia Phillies: Justin De Fratus
With a fastball that sits at 94-96 MPH and regularly touches 98, Philadelphia Phillies right-handed pitcher Justin De Fratus has dominated hitters in the minors for the past three seasons, and with a brief September call-up, Phillies fans got to see De Fratus first-hand as well.
Combined with Antonio Bastardo, De Fratus could very well give the Phillies a formidable one-two righty-lefty punch at the back end of the bullpen for several years to come.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole
Pitching for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Gerrit Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, is learning how to pitch effectively at the professional level, and with his performance in the Rising Stars game, Cole still has some work to do.
However, in his brief professional career, Cole has shown a blazing fastball that can touch 100 MPH, a better-than-average slider, and changeup that when used in the proper sequence, can be a devastating combination at any level.
San Diego Padres: Keyvius Sampson
While Casey Kelly may be the pitching prospect everyone is keeping their eye on in San Diego, Keyvius Sampson just could be the prospect that really opens eyes in the next year or two.
Sampson made huge strides in the 2011 season, with a 12-3 record and 2.90 ERA in 24 starts for Single-A Fort Wayne. Sampson struck out 143 batters in 118 innings, and his fastball was regularly in the mid-90s with sharp movement.
San Francisco Giants: Heath Hembree
San Francisco Giants prospect Heath Hembree continues to impress as he moves through each level of the minors in the San Francisco Giants organization.
Pitching in Advanced Single-A and Double-A ball in 2011, Hembree posted a phenomenal K/9 rate of 14.0, and while his 4.1 BB/9 rate is still a bit high for the Giants’ liking, they expect that to steadily improve.
Hembree is being looked upon as a back-end bullpen guy, and with mid-to-high 90s fastball and excellent slider, Hembree could be the successor to Brian Wilson.
Seattle Mariners: Taijuan Walker
In his first full year of professional baseball, Seattle Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker was more than impressive at Single-A Clinton, posting a 6-4 record with a 2.89 ERA in 18 starts with 113 strikeouts in 96.2 innings.
Walker features a mid-90s fastball that scouts believe can increase to the upper 90s once Walker puts some weight on his 6'4", 195-pound frame. Walker will likely start at the Double-A level in 2012, however it is not out of the realm of possibility that Walker could be seen in Seattle by the end of the season.
St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Martinez
While St. Louis Cardinals prospect Shelby Miller may be the Redbirds’ most highly-touted pitching phenom, Carlos Martinez may just be the guy who has the highest ceiling.
Listed at a very thin six feet and 160 pounds, Martinez reminds scouts of another famous Martinez—as in Pedro. Martinez already has a plus fastball that could top out at close to triple digits, and his first full professional season between Single-A and Advanced Single-A was more than encouraging.
Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Archer
After six seasons in the minors with three different organizations, it would be natural to assume that pitching prospect Chris Archer might be considered an afterthought. However, that might not be true for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Archer, who came to the Rays in the Matt Garza trade with the Chicago Cubs, still struggles with command issues, as his 2011 BB/9 rate of 5.3 would indicate. However, with a fastball that regularly hits 97 MPH, Archer, who just turned 23 years of age, could dominate if he can learn to command the strike zone.
Texas Rangers: Tanner Scheppers
The Texas Rangers have one of the better stocked farm systems in the majors in terms of pitching prospects, but the guy that many point to that could be special in terms of pure power is Tanner Scheppers.
Scheppers has the ability to throw his fastball anywhere between 90-98 MPH, and his ability to mix speeds combined with quality secondary pitches make him a scout’s dream. Pitching between Double-A and Triple-A ball in 2011, Scheppers was used primarily as a reliever, so in shorter stints, Scheppers’ velocity can really be a major factor.
Toronto Blue Jays: Henderson Alvarez
It might be hard to call Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Henderson Alavarez a prospect at this point, having received 10 starts with the Jays in 2011. However, he is without a doubt the premier power-pitching prospect in the organization.
Alvarez impressed at the highest level, with a 3.53 ERA, 40 strikeouts and just eight walks in 63.2 innings. Alvarez regularly touches 97 MPH with his fastball, and his changeup is by far his best secondary pitch. If Alvarez can command his slider more effectively, he certainly has a chance to be an elite starter for the Blue Jays for some time to come.
Washington Nationals: A.J. Cole
Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo took a chance on drafting high school pitcher A.J. Cole in 2010. Though Cole was slated to attend the University of Miami, Rizzo signed Cole to a $2 million bonus, an enormous amount for a fourth-round pick. Apparently, Rizzo thought the money was well-spent, and based on early results, he just might be right.
Cole, a 6'4" 200-pound right-hander, spent the 2011 season at Single-A Hagerstown, making 18 starts with a 4.04 ERA and striking out 108 batters in 89 innings. Scouts clocked Cole’s fastball at upwards of 96 MPH, and believe his velocity will continue to improve over time.
With fireballers like Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Cole, the Nats’ future starting rotation does indeed look bright.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.